Interview With Don Griffith
- Version 3.1 (Hard copy on file in the University Archives)
- Interview Date:
- August 12, 1992
- Don Griffith
- One of the original Straw Hat Bandsman
- Baritone Saxophone 1944 to 1947
- Librarian for three years
- President of Baton Society 1947
- Recipient of the Bell Award 1946
- Dan Cheatham (Drum Major, 1957)
- [Cheatham and Griffith have each had a first edit of their remarks. These comments were typed in June 1996. They each did a second edit which was typed in July 1996.]
- [Editorial notes are attributed thus:
- Norden H. (Dan) Cheatham - NHC]
Keywords: Registration process, audition, Room 175 Men’s Gym, Room 5 Eshleman Hall, campus life during WW II, Coach Wickhorst, Coach Pappy Waldorf, Typical Saturday pregame, women in the Band, 1949 Rose Bowl, lie-down stunts, Stanford Band, night before Stanford Game, beginnings of Straw Hat Band, Charles Cushing, Dick Auslen, Bill Ellsworth, Chris Tellefsen
Cheatham: My name is Dan Cheatham. The date is the twelfth of August, 1992. We are at Don’s house in Rossmoor, Walnut Creek, at 2115 Cactus Court #4
Give us a brief self-introduction.
Griffith: My name is Don Griffith. I was in the Cal Band from 1944 to 1948 and I grew up as a Cal fan living in the Berkeley hills. I played baritone saxophone and I was librarian for three years and winner of the Bell award [Awarded each year to the most valuable Bandsman.] in something like 1946. I was the president, in 1947, of the Baton society -- the Band’s honor society.
Cheatham: Tell us how you first became aware that there was such a thing as the Cal Band?
Griffith: Very simply. I grew up in Berkeley from second grade on and had older cousins that attended Cal. I was always a Cal fan and was aware of the Cal Band from the time I was a pretty small child.
Even though I lived in Berkeley I attended and graduated from University High in Oakland. [Currently abandoned, this site is more recently known as one of the founding sites of Merritt College. It is located not far from the Children’s Hospital on the Oakland/Berkeley boundary. NHC]
Cheatham: So you knew from the very beginning that you were going to enroll at Cal. With that same sense of certainty, did you know also know that you were going to become a Cal Bandsman?
Griffith: From entering high school it was my intent. Yes.
Cheatham: What was your audition like?
Griffith: Well, I don’t know. I had to play for Professor Cushing, but...
In those days...every year, we [the Band] had a recruiting table set up at Harmon Gym, then called the Men’s Gym.
During registration week every student had to go through the registration process there at the gym. As they circled the hall, going from station to station, the Band had a table set up, with a big sign stating that this was the place to join the Cal Band. So during my Freshman registration...when I came to the table...that was it. I signed up.
Dr. Cushing gave me the audition and, as always, he was extremely patient, friendly, and made life real easy for us.
Cheatham: How well did you play during that audition?
Griffith: I was sure no expert musician. (laughter) I’m sure that I made it by the skin of my teeth, in spite of the war-time shortage of student musicians.
Cheatham: .Registering in the Men’s Gym was still going on when I entered in the Fall of 1954. Here’s how it went:
Throughout the main floor of the gymnasium, as well as in the upper halls, were tables that represented a succession of stations that all the students had to call at in order to complete the process. Registration occurred during the first two or three days of registration week and was done by alphabet. Monday would be letter A to letter something-or-other, and then Tuesday would be letter something-or-other to letter-something-else. The students would enter the front door of the gym and proceed through a lot of wooden saw horse-like barriers that would lead you from station to station. In a joking way, we referred to them as cattle chutes.
You would start at the front door and would follow these cattle chutes that would take you in zig-zag fashion across the main floor of the gymnasium and then up one stairway, and around, down another stairway. You’d make out certain applications at certain station and proceed to the next and have someone stamp or sign your form and then proceed on to another station. The process would proceed until you finally arrived at one station where they would take your registration fee. In my day, the process took about an hour.
Don, what was the registration fee in your day?
Griffith: I honestly don’t remember what it was, probably somewhere between $35 and $50.
Cheatham: When you arrived at the cashier’s station and paid your registration fee, you would then exit the west-facing door of the gymnasium, onto the baseball field, as a newly enrolled student.
One of the stations as you went by was a table that had a big sign that encouraged you to join up with the Cal Band. That was where Don made his contact for an audition with Prof. Cushing.
Griffith: That sign-up station was located outside the door of the ROTC Band Room at Room 175.
Cheatham: I’m glad you mentioned Room 175 Men’s Gym, because, although that room no longer exists, today...they subdivided it into smaller, individual offices (within the space that was formerly room 175) now numbered 175a, 175b, et seq. ...it doubled as the headquarters/rehearsal room for the ROTC bands and, in those days, as the rehearsal room for the Cal Band.[August 2000: With the building of the Hass Pavilion, there are no remaining vestiges of this room. NHC]
Room 175 Men’s Gym, was a very important place in the history of the Band during these years. Tell me what anecdotes and recollections you have of this place.
Griffith: It was just one large classroom which was plenty large to accommodate the size of the then band...at the time max...fifty, sixty people...during the war. That was a perfect rehearsal room for the times.
Cheatham: During my student days in the nineteen fifties, Room 175 Men’s Gym served as the rehearsal room for the ROTC bands because the ROTC programs were also located in the Men’s gym, in spaces now occupied by the intercollegiate athletics department. Incidentally, the space currently serving as the women’s locker rooms in the, now called, Harmon Gymnasium, was the Army ROTC armory and was filled with racks of M-1 rifles used for the Tuesday and Thursday drills on the field between the gym and Edwards Track stadium. This field was very large, before they build the present Recreational Sports Facility. In those days the field extended from home plate of the baseball field all the way to a wall at Bancroft Way.
The location of Room 175 was on the same floor as the main gymnasium floor, but across the hall, with windows overlooking the parking lot between the gym and Strawberry Creek. What I mean is, as you looked out the window your eye would first fall upon the parking lot and then if you raised your gaze a little bit, across the street you would see Strawberry Creek.
There were sufficiently large cabinets to store some of the percussion instruments and some of the larger wind instruments. The acoustics were terrible because it wasn’t designed to be a musical rehearsal hall. In addition to the ROTC bands, it also functioned, in those years, as the rehearsal space for the Cal Band. Later, the Straw Hat Band would rehearse there prior to entering a basketball game.
There’s another room that had a very important role in the history of the Cal Band. We refer to that as Room 5, Eshleman Hall.
Don, would you describe Room 5 to us?
Griffith: Room 5 Eshleman Hall was about the only place the Band had to hang out. It consisted of a desk for the student manager, a dilapidated couch, a ping pong table, concrete floors, lockers, and a shower room. Of course, in my day things were very sexist. Thank god they have changed, but at that time only men were in the band. So we basically used Eshleman Hall to change, to get into uniform and shower after a game. There was normally twelve to fourteen hours straight of bridge and ping pong going on constantly.
The biggest problem was getting furniture. Because at that time the powers that be were too cheap to supply the Band with anything. Most of the furniture that we had to sit on was acquired as follows. (Dan laughs in background at the sudden memory of the stories on this subject.) Each year prior to the Stanford Big Game we would be invited to various class reunion parties. We would split ourselves up into small groups... At any rate, the various reunions being held in San Francisco hotels...and the furniture situation being such as it was...invariably we would return from these hotels in San Francisco with various pieces of furniture on the bus such as chairs...anything that would fit.
Specifically, I remember us leaving the Palace Hotel with a chair that was sitting by the front door, with a guy carrying the chair in the middle of the Band, with everybody surrounding him. The doorman looked at us and opened the door so we could exit the hotel and put the chair on the bus. When we arrived back at campus, there was a Berkeley police officer sitting in the parking space outside Room 5 waiting for our return. He promptly arrested the poor guy who happened to carry the chair off the bus. Whereupon all of us surrounded him and refused to let him take that one poor guy off without arresting the whole crowd. So, ultimately, he backed off, and we ended up with the chair until somebody came by and took it away from us and returned it to the hotel.
Cheatham: As I recollect, the way it worked, was...there would be a small piece of furniture like a circular cocktail table...and...here would come this...even though it was the lobby of a hotel...basically a block band. Kind of like locust, the block band would sort of absorb this table and when it left the table wasn’t there anymore. It would appear at Room 5 Eshleman.
Now, in my mature years, I look back and wish we didn’t behave like that.
There was another kind of juvenile irreverence that was practiced at the time. This had to be done in the right circumstance with the right kind of humor and in the presence of a friendly policeman. One Bandsman would call out, “Hey, Don, what does your dad do for a living?”
And, the answer is?
Griffith: Nothing. He’s a cop!
Griffith: Well, I forgot the next answer.
Cheatham: Don doesn’t remember, but the next answer is,“No! He’s the Berkeley kind! Or, the San Francisco kind. Or, the Los Angeles kind. Or, which ever city you happen to be in.”
Another answer is, “No! The usual kind”. I remember this sort of exchange happening on a number of occasions during the days when I was a water boy. Naturally you would never do this until you already established a friendly rapport with policeman in question.
The ping pong table must have taken up a lot of space. Was ping pong really that important to the Band in those days?
Griffith: Yeah! We had a ping pong ladder [A method of keeping track of the champion players. NHC] going. You could challenge the guy ahead of you, or two ahead of you, and there was almost a constant challenge going on to see if you could move up the ladder or protect your place in the ladder from someone below you. The only time ping pong was not available was when we were planning for the coming year. The ping pong table was used to lay out and bind the music for the coming year. There was no other place, we had nothing else available that was big enough to accomplish that job. [In later years if was used to assemble the “Poop Sheets” (stunt sheets) in assembly-line fashion as they came off the old Ditto Machine. See one of the Colescott interviews. NHC]
Cheatham: It was always a problem keeping a ping pong ball at hand. They were always missing or dented. See the Colescott interviews for the story of how he converted one of the instrument lockers into a ping pong ball ball dispensing machine.
The courtyard near Room 5 was then known as Eshleman Court, and the building across from it then known as Stephens (Student) Union was the center of student activity on campus. That function is now transferred to Sproul Plaza but in those days the Band was right smack in the middle of the major center student of activity. This meant that a lot of students were walking back and forth in front of Room 5. You could look out the window or sit on the porch and if you saw friends, you could yell to one another. That sort of thing.
On the subject of campus life, would you take a few minutes to characterize, as best you can, what campus was like during those war years?
Griffith: Enrollment being low, my recollection is that the Band was very dependent on the Navy’s V-12 program for players. We probably wouldn’t have survived the War Years without them. We just wouldn’t have had enough members to function and sound like a band should sound. The campus contained many temporary buildings that were just cheap, wood frame structures, with no insulation. There were large study halls that were the same way. The Music Department itself, other than the band activities in Room 175 Men’s Gym, was located between Harmon Gym and the Life Sciences Building, in an old one-story shingle frame building that was more like a two story home.[It is still there and is known as Dwinelle Hall Annex. NHC] The only other thing I can say is that, now when I go on campus, I get lost. It has literally changed so much, I can’t even start to find my way around any more.
Cheatham: Characterize the role and the viability of the ASUC government in those days.
Griffith: Student government at that time was quiet and orderly. There might have been, on rare occasion, a controversial article in the Daily Cal. Other than the furor over Frank Wickhorst as football coach, which really riled up the students, I really can’t recall anything significant, especially, compared to the sixties. [Referring to the Free Speech Movement and its aftermath. NHC]
Cheatham: Describe the turmoil over Coach Wickhorst.
Griffith: Right after World War II Cal had some of the greatest football talent that has ever been at Cal including Jackie Jensen, Bob Solari, Truck Cullom, Johnny Olszewski, et al. Everyone felt that the team was capable of having a good winning season. I personally recall a bonfire rally at the Greek Theater, Coach Wickhorst was introducing the players and couldn’t remember all of their names. This caused the furor which resulted in his firing and the hiring of the greatest coach we’ve ever had, Pappy Waldorf, with whom we went to the Rose Bowl.
Cheatham: I’ve heard that after one particular football game, the students were so distressed, that they tore up some of the wooden seats from the rooting section and built a bonfire in the stadium. I also heard descriptions that at a subsequent meeting of the ASUC government, the avid student sports fans clamored to get into the room and were shaking their fists and yelling for Coach Wickhorst to be fired, which is what happened and eventually Pappy Waldorf hired.
The readers of this interview have to remember that in those days, intercollegiate athletics on campus answered to the ASUC Student Government not to the Administration of the University. [See the Coach Pete Newell interview for how this changed.] This was part of a long and proud heritage of the ASUC stemming from the time of Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
My recollection is that the coaches were considered faculty members in the Physical Education Department and were paid accordingly. (This was the University’s contribution to the endeavor.) One of the courses they taught was Intercollegiate Football, or whatever, and the team members were enrolled in that class.
I would guess that the ASUC was at the height of its eminence in those days, in terms of the respect that the Administration had for it and it had for the Administration. The close cooperation between them was much different in those days than any of today’s students can possibly imagine. It was a marvelous era. By contrast, the news of the day is about the decline of the ASUC and how it has poorly managed its assets, particularly the book store and how the Chancellor has reluctantly had to step in and take over some of the management of the ASUC. This is, of course, accompanied by cries of a University take over. I think it can be shown that something had to be done and that Chancellor Tien has tried very hard to do it with as little damage to the traditional ASUC independence as he can.
We have very little insight as to how the Band fit into campus life during the war years. Help set the scene for us on that.
Griffith: The Band was really a center of morale on campus. We would show up and play at all kinds of activities. We were so restricted budget-wise and by the rules of World War II [Referring to gas rationing and things like that. NHC] that we were completely unable to travel and support the team at away games. In all the years I spent with the Band, it was only about the last year that any trips were possible. During the war itself, we never got beyond Stanford. That was the one place we could arrange to take a bus. During the war, the basic level of gas rationing was four gallons a week per family. It was almost impossible to get a new tire. Most of us were buying recapped tires for our automobiles and the quality was not very good. Transportation was mostly limited to the movement of troops and material. There was so much fear of a Japanese attack, as at Pearl Harbor, that some major games...when the Rose Bowl was moved to inland locations in other states and couldn’t be played in California. Further, the Band did not have the budget, or the means of transportation, to support the team when it did get a chance to play an away game.
Cheatham: Describe a typical Saturday afternoon from the time you showed up in the morning to the time you arrived at the stadium.
Griffith: We would meet at Room 175 Harmon Gym in uniform and with our instruments. Across from Harmon Gym, rather than the buildings that are there now, it was all open field. In fact, intramural baseball was played on that field. [ It was called Union Field. It was bordered on one side by a very short street called Union Street. NHC] The space occupied now by the Alumni House. [ And Zellerbach Playhouse too. NHC] We would go through a rehearsal for whatever we were going to do for the day. With such limited numbers, the most we could do was a lie-down stunt, or forming a block C. A half hour or forty-five minutes before the game, we would proceed up Bancroft Avenue...marching in block formation...either just a drum cadence or playing various Cal songs. Upon arriving at North Tunnel, typical of what the Band is still doing, we would wait for an entrance to play the Star Spangled Banner. Without much of a fanfare, we would march to the center of the field and usually face west, as I remember, play the Star Spangled Banner, and do an about face, go to the stands on the student side, and a sit down and wait for the game to start. That was about it for anything we did before game time.
I remember one particular instance during the war, when for some reason the first game of the season occurred prior to the beginning of classes. Other than the V-12 members of the band, and those who happened to live locally, most of us were out of town and I recall under some protest from some of us that we went on to the field and played the Star Spangled Banner with twelve or thirteen instruments. I will never forget the embarrassment trying to play Star Spangled Banner in the middle of a football stadium full of people with a dozen instruments.
Cheatham: See if you can’t come up with any recollections or descriptions of the drum majors of the day, and any particular style that might be attributed to them.
Griffith: Only to say, that it was quite conservative compared to what it is now. Probably the highest a baton thrown in those days was over the goal post on the way in. I don’t remember any high tosses and catches, or extreme back bends as we’re doing nowadays. Our drum majors were more military style...leaders and directors of the band on the field, or while we were marching, rather than the show procedures that we are using now.
Cheatham: You said earlier that you were active in the Baton Society. Would you describe that for us.
Griffith: Baton Society was a rather select group of Bandsmen whom the members of the society elected to join, based on that Bandsman’s contribution to the welfare of the Band. Probably, at any one time, there may have been twenty-five members. There was an initiation ceremony that I vaguely recall which was somewhat similar to what a fraternity initiation might be. One of its primary functions was to arrange for an annual “Smoker” [A hold-over term from the 1920’s referring to an informal gathering of men students in a lounge area for socializing. There would be smoking. Hence, the name. Remember, “ready made” cigarettes were just making the scene...instead of “roll your own” cigarettes, and the popularity of smoking was just catching on. The cigarette companies would provide samples of their product. This would be the forerunner of what, in later years became a “beer-bust” a party with lots of beer drinking. NHC] to which the football coach or other coaches were invited to speak to the whole band. But, basically, it was to recognize those Bandsmen who had made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the whole. If it no longer exists, I would highly recommend that it be re-established.
Cheatham: Don, we are about to move on from the war years. Do you have any other recollections relating to life on campus during those times.
Griffith: On New Year’s Day, the East-West Shrine Game, which is now played at Stanford, was played at Kezar stadium in San Francisco, at Golden Gate Park. We would be invited to go, along with other bands in the area. We went, but I think it was with the least enthusiasm of any activity we engaged in. Because of it being on New Year’s Day, most of us attended that game with rather severe hangovers from the New Year’s Eve the night before.
There was one time when Cal played the Naval Academy. The Navy sent several ships into San Francisco bay so the officers and sailors could attend the game and root for Navy. In all good consciousness, maybe thirty or forty of us, got up about five or six o’clock in the morning and went out onto the cold bay, in a small boat, to welcome the Navy ships into the harbor. We, of course, being such strong Cal supporters, had a banner hanging over the side that said “Beat Navy.”
At that time, the biggest newspaper in Berkeley was the Berkeley Gazette, fondly called the Berkeley Gas Jet. Following that excursion into the bay, there was an extremely critical article...being around the end of the war and all...with the Navy’s proud war record...we were roundly criticized for having this banner that said “Beat Navy!” Many of us were infuriated about that criticism because it was unwarranted, but the Band’s official position was to stay quiet and don’t stir up the waters.
But I didn’t stay quiet. I wrote a letter to the editor which got published in the Berkeley Gazette, to the effect that everything we had done, like getting up at five or six in the morning and getting the boat, and going out on the bay to greet this navy ship and welcoming them...obviously, all the banner represented was that we were extending a welcome with open arms to everything except victory over our team. It got published and ultimately the whole thing quieted down.
Cheatham: I remember Bandsmen telling the story of how you played the song “If I had the Wings of an Angel” as you floated past the federal prison on Alcatraz Island.
Griffith: Yes. We thought that was a clever joke although I doubt if any of the prisoners heard it and if they did they might not have understood the joke, which is a play on words.
The words are:
If I had the wings of an angel over these prison walls I would fly. I would fly to the arms of my true love...(I am sure some one else will remember the rest...) [Is it possible the song was, “ If I had the wings of a turtle dove, I would fly straight into the arms of my true love”...or some such? NHC]
Cheatham In your day it was an all male band. I understand that you have an anecdote to tell about the Cal Band and women.
Griffith: During the war and after, women were strictly forbidden from being members of the Cal Band. It was just the way a sexist society was in those days, and the set-up of Room 5 Eshleman Hall, with its single shower room and lockers and whatnot, would probably have pretty much have precluded women from joining at that time anyway. [It was also a natural consequence of the Band’s early origins and close links with the all-male Cadet and ROTC bands. NHC] But I remember in ’48, because I think it was in connection with our trip to the Rose Bowl, when we were waiting in Eshleman Court for a decision whether Cal or Oregon was going to go to the Rose Bowl. The plan was, if it was announced that we had won the bid, the Campanile would play Hail to Cal and, if not, it would play the funeral dirge or something else, I don’t remember quite what. At any rate, we heard Hail to Cal coming from the Campanile, so we were all prepared to celebrate. At the time, I happened to have a girlfriend who played the clarinet. And she was standing near the Band waiting for this Campanile announcement, about who was going to the Rose Bowl. It was probably me that handed her my clarinet so that she could play Fight for Cal or whatever, when the announcement was made. Unfortunately, there was a Daily Cal photographer present who took this picture of her playing the clarinet with the Band. It appeared on the front page of the Daily Cal and following that I was just about expelled from the Cal Band for having allowed such a hideous thing to happen.
Cheatham: That’s a good opening to talk about the 1949 Rose Bowl. It must have been a very exciting time because there had been a long dry spell...the next previous time Cal had been to the Rose Bowl had been 1939. So, here we are in 1948 preparing for the 1949 Rose Bowl and you were a member of the Band. What can you tell us about that?
Griffith: It was one of the few times the Band had gone anywhere in many years. Therefore, it was an extremely big deal for us, especially after the Coach Wickhorst years. To have found Coach Pappy Waldorf who produced a team that we all knew was capable of playing and going to the Rose Bowl... It was unthinkable for a band to travel by airplane, which was absolutely out of the question for Cal in those days. The typical trips to Los Angeles, before the war, were by Southern Pacific rooter train, which left from the SP station at the foot of University Avenue. The Rose Bowl trip started there too. The Band and all the rooters that had chosen to go were on board. We went down through the San Joaquin Valley, it being an all night trip...and every once in a while, the train, for some reason, would stop at various stations. We’d all pile off and play a tune in the middle of the night at the railroad station and pile back on again.
The Band stayed in rather antiquated quarters in a older downtown Los Angeles hotel but I can’t remember the name...Dan has just suggested that it was probably the Figueroa and that jogs my memory to say yes that was probably correct. [Later in the 1950s the Band stayed at the Hotel Commodore. Maybe this is the same hotel with a different name. NHC].
Clifton’s cafeteria, in downtown Los Angeles provided us with a couple of free meals in exchange for playing out front. The interior of Clifton’s was quite elaborate with plastic palm trees and waterfalls, and phony tropical flowers and this sort of thing. Flamboyant. Very “Hollywood”.
The Rose Parade itself, of course, was long and tedious. It being about a six mile march and I can’t honestly remember what our cadence was. But we spent a lot of time, just standing, waiting for whatever was in front of us to move. And if my memory is correct, some of what was in front of us, was Hollywood cowboys complete with hat and chaps and their horses. We spent a good part of our time dodging what the horse troop had left on the street as they went. [This was one of the early post-war Rose Parades and the city of Pasadena was just relearning how to put on a parade. Many of the floats broke down causing delays. NHC]
No recollection at all what we did for half-time.
But the game itself was a great game, the outcome being extremely disappointing, since we had...I believe the opposing team was Northwestern...and we had a strong opportunity to beat them. However, it was a game in which at the very end, as we were progressing down the field, Jackie Jensen, who was one the greatest players Cal ever had, went down with a leg injury. All by himself, he was out to pass and pulled ligaments or something and went down all on his own. As he was trying to throw the ball, and with about three minutes or so, the game was virtually over because our victory drive was stifled right then and there We lost 20-14.
Cheatham: Elsewhere in the interview you made reference to a lie-down stunt, I forgot to ask you to describe that.
Griffith: Having not been involved in any of that kind of planning, my memory on the subject is pretty limited, but with only a small band, it was decided about the only way you could spell anything out was to use the height of the Bandsman by lying down on the field and maybe spelling something like Cal, or whatever we felt we had enough men to do. But the basic idea was that, by lying down head-to-toe, the people in the stands could better read what we were trying to do. I’m sure one of the old time drum majors would have a lot more insight on this subject than I would.
Cheatham: I was asking Don off-tape here for his memories about the what we call the Cal Band, chubby bear logo, or the pot-bellied bear logo...the current logo that is painted on the bass drum heads. His recollection is that it was not being used during the years he was in the band. That means it must have been developed some time after 1947.
Cheatham: What was the Stanford Band like during your years?
Griffith: Having only observed the Stanford Band maybe, once a year, my memory isn’t too great, but I think they were a pretty traditional band at the time. With a typical military style uniform, more or less...which the Cal Band, at the time, had too. I just can’t recollect anything else pertinent about the Stanford Band, except they certainly...I don’t think they were the rag tag, disgraceful outfit that they are today. Typically, whenever they were in earshot we would play Come Join the Band to waltz time, as an obvious insult to our arch rivals.
The biggest thing that went on between the Cal Band and the Stanford Band at the time was attempting to steal each others hats...and that waltz tune. [Come Join the Band was the Stanford theme song. I use the term theme song because I don’t think of it as a fight song. It is the tune of the trio to New Colonial March. The Cal Band of this era was always playing it in waltz time. It was fun to play and represented, to the Cal Band, the ultimate musical insult to our rivals at Stanford. NHC]
Cheatham: Earlier, you described the sequence of events leaving the band room and going up to the stadium. Now, would you describe the sequence of events after the game was over.
Griffith: After playing All Hail, which I believe we usually did in the stands, we would proceed to form up in the middle of the field and to march out through the North Tunnel. Invariably we would play One More River going through North Tunnel. Immediately after the arrival of coach Pappy Waldorf on the scene, and since we were beginning to win for a change...that we weren’t used to...we stopped outside the tunnel, under the team dressing room and called for Coach Waldorf. We would chant, “We want Pappy. We want Pappy.” [It was done in a sing-song fashion with the tubas setting the tone and the tune. This would go on for several minutes before Pappy would step out on the balcony and talk to the crowd. I elaborate on this in one of the other oral histories but I forget which one. Maybe Bill Fay. NHC]
He would come out on the balcony, sometimes with one or two of his players and talk to the crowd that had gathered below. We would then proceed down by Bowles Hall, where we invariably stopped and played the Bowles Hall song (tune of By the old Pacific rolling waters... a UCLA song...) for the Bowles Hall residents gathered on the lawn in front of the building. After that, it was a straight shot down the hill to the base of the Campanile and Room 5. On the march, we would usually play a few Cal songs and the Stanford song in waltz time, as previously described. As we played the whole Band would sway in time to the waltz and then snap-to as the Cal Band drum cadence started up again. The Cal Band was fond of street marching in those days.
Cheatham: Weren’t you among the founding members of the Straw Hat Band?
Griffith: The origin of the Straw Hat Band occurred during basketball season where typically we would crack jokes in a very loud voice among ourselves. one of which, I am sure, is still circulating among current members of the Cal Band as to: “How is your old straw hat? ” The answer being, “It’s never been felt.” After having used this among other even more corny jokes during basketball season, one of our members, and I believe it was Bill Fay, showed up in a straw hat. [It was Bill Fay. See his interview for greater detail. NHC]
The rest of us who played regularly at basketball games kind of took it from there and more and more of us starting showing up wearing straw hats with various decorations, such as, obviously, blue and gold bands around the hat and what not. In fact, I had my straw hat until I moved from San Mateo to Rossmoor in 1980 and it somehow got tossed out in the process of moving. I have lost it which I have regretted ever since.
At that time...this was typical University administration at that time...it was a struggle and a half to get any kind of authorization from powers that be, at the campus, to show up at a basketball game wearing a straw hat. We were supposed to be strictly in uniform. It took a long time and a lot of student support to get approval what is now very acceptable for the Cal Band on campus.
Cheatham: In order to get free admission to the game...if you showed up in full uniform, that was one thing, but if you showed up in a straw hat, maybe you were just a ringer, trying to get a free entrance to the game?
Griffith: Not really, it was just administration objection to being out of uniform and wearing a straw hat.
Cheatham: You mean the Cal Band officers?
Griffith: I mean the University Officials, or the ASUC and what not. Those who supposedly were giving us the authority to appear, objected to our wearing straw hats. It was a struggle to get it accepted on campus.
Cheatham: Tell us about is your memories of Charles Cushing
Griffith: Professor Cushing was fine musician, very friendly and patient. Excellent teacher. I enjoyed my time, with Professor Cushing, as librarian for the Band, particularly in concert band season. He was a very conservative gentleman, but by no means a disciplinarian. In fact he could be extremely friendly and joke with his students extensively. I remember that the Rose Bowl trip previously referred to, I spent good many hours on the rooters train playing bridge, one of the foursome in the bridge game being Charles Cushing.
Looking back on it, I would, especially compared to what is done [re: Cal Band’s marching style] today and in the years maybe going back the last twenty-five years...he was very conservative when it came to marching and stunts and things like this. [ Cushing eventually left the Band over a controversy involving the Band being out-marched by the Big-10 bands in Pappy Waldorf’s three consecutive Rose Bowls. The desire to become more of a “show band” was inconsistent with his image of a Band as a musically sound, performance/concert band. NHC]
He was certainly a strong supporter of our activities and never criticized us for the mischief we got into from time to time. [In spite of his concert band orientation he recognized the strong tradition of student leadership in the Cal Band. He, himself was a former Student Director in the formative years of the “ASUC Band” when the Band was formulating its constitution and developing its formal leadership structure, and was thus supportive of the Cal Band as its own entity. He was a distinguished member of the Music faculty and by some arrangement with the ASUC, functioned as an advisor to that entity known as the Cal Band which had its own structure. His viewed his main function as preparing it musically during whatever rehearsal time was available. He was also there to provide whatever counseling and advice was appropriate to the Executive Committee, who viewed themselves as the decision makers for the Cal Band. In the spring when it was concert band season, members of the Cal Band made up the bulk of that band, in spite of the fact that this band was a 2-unit, repeatable, course of the Music Department. As a University course this was the season when he had absolute control and made the decisions and produced a fine musical organization. I also wonder if he could have found enough qualified musicians for the concert band if it hadn’t been for his popularity with the Cal Bandsmen. So, the relationship between Cushing and the Cal Band was a peculiar one that is hard to put a finger on. I suspect that both entities defined it as it best suited their individual interests and that it changed from time to time. I suspect that the push, after the Rose Bowls, for a Big-10 style, show band just didn’t interest him and it provided a convenient opportunity for him to pass the responsibility to someone else. As it happened Jim Berdahl was pursuing graduate studies on campus and was available to step it. The rest is history. NHC]
He was really a fine, fine teacher and a fine man. Rehearsals with Professor Cushing were businesslike, not strict, but excellent instruction by means of which even I maybe improved my musicianship a little bit. I recall during concert band season that Professor Cushing had, I’d say, liked to use lots of music from French composers and I recall many a time playing the music of Debussy.[He also composed music in the same genre. NHC] I always enjoyed it greatly and at one time I mentioned to him that I enjoyed that kind of music as he did, and his response to me was “When you look at a painting, you probably enjoy the color and the relationship of the color more, than the outlines in the paintings.” And I thought at the time, that that was very observant, an excellent observation.
Cheatham: Tell us about Dick Auslen.
Griffith: Dick Auslen, became manager of the Band on his return from Army duty in World War II in Europe. I believe Dick became manager the next semester after his return and was part of the new group of Bandsman that enabled us...that came home from the war...and enabled us to grow and really become a positive entity. Dick and I became very good friends, still are to this day. As a matter of fact, when he married I was his best man, and when I married he was my best man. And while I don’t see him as often as I would like, we still consider ourselves close. We were in the Baton society together and in my function as librarian we worked together quite a bit and he did an outstanding job getting the band back on its feet after world war II. I believe I said that Dick was a very positive influence in bringing the Band back and I specifically mean that the struggle that we had during world war II with size and what not, that he did outstanding job of managing and guiding the recruiting of new members of the Band that made it as strong...stronger an entity than it could have possibly have been in the previous years during the war. [My take on this is that Dick Auslen is an unsung hero. If he hadn’t rallied the troops to the cause at that immediate post war era, the Band may never have reconstituted itself in the manner it did which eventually led to the quality band of today. The secret was the gathering together of the remnants of the prewar band and melding them with a group of enthusiastic newcomers (including Bill Ellsworth, Art Robson, Bob Desky, et al.) and this in turn was reinforced with the successes of Pappy Waldorf’s football teams. NHC]
[Subsequent to this interview Dick Auslen died (Spring 1996) in his home in Zephyr Cove, Lake Tahoe, of complications from Parkinson’s disease. There is a separate oral history interview with Dick. NHC]
Cheatham: Do you have any recollections of Bill Ellsworth?
Griffith: Yeah, Bill and I were in the band at the same time and for a long time were pretty close friends. I remember we...some semester break, or whatever, we took a trip up to Yosemite together for a weekend. Bill was one of the most enthusiastic Cal Bandsman that ever lived. Bill lived and literally died for the welfare of the Cal Band over the years and was of course the perennial sophomore on campus. And as we all know ended up as the Cal Band announcer for a good many years before his death. Bill had flaming red hair and a infectious smile and was always happy and enthusiastic about everything the Cal Band was doing and every activity, he never missed a Cal Band activity in his whole time on campus that I know of. I think we were in the Band together for two years, maybe three. Yeah, Bill was a very enthusiastic musician, but, as I recall, not in any classes with me. We both played the saxophone, probably with equal lack of talent and ah...(laugh).
He was a great guy, and certainly we all miss Bill today. I know if Bill was still with us, he would still be active in Band affairs. Unfortunately, Bill was a heavy smoker and that’s why we should all listen to what can happen to us if we pursue that habit.
Cheatham: Don is referring to the fact, that Bill died from lung cancer.
Tell us about Chris Tellefsen.
Griffith: Chris must have been in his, at least in his sixties back when I was in the Band in the forties. One of the strongest supporters that the Cal Band ever had. He would come to all our functions and had a million stories about when he was young and lived in Alaska and had all these adventures. [ We learn about some of these in a separate oral history interview with Chris’ daughter Betsy Tellefsen O’Donald. NHC] Chris was always good for a new story and, and those of us who were in the band could always count on Chris for advice and friendship.
His function on campus was to work with the ASUC store and to handle the Cap and Gown Department. Bandsmen were always the first people on Chris’s list when he needed help, especially handing out caps and gowns during graduation season, and the Bandsman were always the first to be able to pick up a few bucks working for Chris. I did that numerous times myself.
He would take bus trips with us to Stanford and wherever else we might be going locally, and did much work for the Rose Bowl trip and I am sure subsequent trips to southern California. Chris well deserves having the residence hall named after him.
Cheatham: Tell us more about the Caps and Gowns enterprise. What was it? How did it work?
Griffith: The caps and gowns were stored in a back room behind the book store, across from Room 5. [My recollection from the 1950s is that they were in the basement of Eshleman Hall. NHC]
Renting caps and gowns to graduating Seniors was a service provided by the ASUC. If they didn’t do it where else would you get them? And in those days the graduations were en masse in the Stadium so it was a major undertaking to get everyone decked out in the proper garb. Chris handled this and hired Bandsmen to assist him.
Cheatham: When the ASUC moved from the Steven’s Union at Eshleman Court to its present quarters in lower Sproul Plaza, the caps and gowns operation moved to the basement of the Cafeteria, now called Golden Bear Center. It occupied the space just down the hall from the present Band quarters. I don’t know what caused the operation to close down. I think it was the ASUC’s preoccupation with the Free Speech Movement and its aftermath. The space became vacant and the newly formed Jazz Ensemble, under Dave Tucker, moved into the vacant space. However, that may not be the exact sequence of events.
Give us a brief synopsis of your career subsequent to graduation.
Griffith: I wanted to go into Real Estate but my employer (the predecessor to Wells Fargo Bank) and I soon decided the public relations work involved was not for me and I ended up as a teller in the foreign exchange department handling currency transactions, etc. From there it was to the Savings and Loan business where my unsuspected ability to quickly balance the accounts each day earned me a job in charge of the accounting department. After the year of accounting at Cal, that was the last thing I expected to do, but it prompted more accounting classes at Golden Gate University where I became fascinated with establishing accounting systems, controls, and auditing, In 1962 I went to work for an established, but small, mortgage banking, property manager, real estate and insurance broker. I held the position of Treasurer-Controller until retirement in 1987.
Cheatham: Is there any closing statement you would like to make about anything I might have forgotten to ask?
Griffith: My years in the Cal Band were the best of my young life (i.e., prior to marriage in 1952). I remember that the first Cal Band water boy (football season 1946) was Don Auslen, Dick’s younger bother. Then in 1947 Dan Cheatham became a water boy too. Outgoing Senior Manager Dick Auslen and incoming Senior Manager Bill Fay were counselors at Lokoya Boys Camp near Napa and found him there. He seems to have been with the Band ever since.
Cheatham: Yes that’s true. It seems like I have been with the band ever since in one capacity or another. I’ve been taking photographs for them since about 1970 and I am still doing it. Now I am doing oral histories too.
Don, thank you very much. I have taken up a good part of your afternoon, but I think that this has been a very fruitful interview. You have added a lot of bits and pieces of anecdotes to our files.